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  • Cathy Bonacci

A Celebration of Rhapsody in Blue

This year marks the 100th anniversary of “Rhapsody in Blue,” the timeless masterpiece by American composer and pianist George Gershwin. Gershwin’s innovative fusion of classical and jazz music broke musical barriers, influencing countless artists and shaping the American musical landscape.

On Saturday, March 9, the Naples Art District will celebrate the 100th anniversary of “Rhapsody in Blue” with an array of jazzy original artwork in multiple hues of blue shown in our studios and galleries along Shirley Street and J & C Blvd.

George Gershwin (1898-1937) is most beloved for his musical compositions, notably his jazz opera “Porgy and Bess.” It is a lesser-known fact that Gershwin’s talents extended to the visual arts. He was an excellent painter and portrait artist. Gershwin felt painting and composing were rhythmic complements to each other; in his own words, art and music “spring from the same elements, one emerging as sight, the other as sound.”

Many visual artists are inspired by music, and many are also musicians themselves. Highlighted below are three artists with their studios in the Naples Art District, who possess the unique ability to express their creativity across multiple artistic domains. Their artwork is influenced by their multi-disciplinary talents.

Jan Edwards has combined her passions for music and art in her studio, Musebox Arts, 5850 Shirley St, #208, which she feels “is the one place where I can celebrate all my muses.” Jan is not only a talented painter and guitar player, but also a noted songwriter and recording artist. Jan finds songwriting much like painting, with words and melody as her medium. She notes that “painting is a solitary act, but music is often a collaboration among songwriters.”

Jan approaches each songwriting project the same way she approaches her paintings with a blank space that needs to be filled. She pushes boundaries with each song and painting she originates, reinventing herself and discovering something new every time.

Anna Rac, a contemporary abstract artist, with her studio located at 5760 Shirley Street #12 in Artisan’s Plaza, was born in Poland and studied piano from age four. Her family fled political turmoil, leaving the family piano behind with their move to Chicago. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in music and made daily piano playing part of her life. Anna only began painting after moving to Naples, having found a formative instructor, Tammra Sigler, also a skilled artist in the Naples Art District. While Anna paints she listens to the music of Baroque composers – Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi, and Handel. Translating the mood and rhythms of these classics onto her canvas, her painting process is totally immersive, and her contemporary abstracts are lyrical, dynamic, and multilayered.

Michael Monroe, a Naples Art District artist known for his modern abstract art on large canvases, is also a talented pianist. Michael finds a chromatic scale on the piano and on his palette. He notes, “Like music, art can be a soft ballad or a rage of loud color.” Michael performs monthly outside his studio at 2044 J & C Blvd combining his talents on his easel and piano. He was commissioned by the Baldwin Piano Corporation to hand-paint a series of grand pianos, known as the “Artist Series.” Michael has been a resident artist and singer/piano player on cruise ships. His paintings often include the azure hues he found surrounding him on these cruises. When Michael caught sight of the color of the sea and sky in Naples, he knew he had found a home.

You can meet these multi-talented artists among the 100 artists in the Naples Art District. Join us for our free Open Studios every Thursday, 1-5 p.m., Art After Dark, 4-8 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month, and our themed Second Saturdays. You can also discover your inner artist in over 50 classes offered by our teaching artists. Please visit for more information.

Other local arts organizations will be honoring Gershwin’s legacy this season, including Artis-Naples and the Baker Museum.


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